Google is making changes to the way people can book flights and hotels online – something that’s going to affect everyone across both industries. The updates are rolling out this week, which refine the hotel booking process in Google Search and also combine the flight and hotel booking experience into Google Flights.
This means users could soon turn to Google Flights to book both flights and hotels, rather than using separate platforms or rivals like Skyscanner and Kayak. So let’s take a look at what Google is changing and what this could mean for travel marketers.
Google’s new hotel search experience
First of all, Google is rolling out a new hotel search experience for mobile users. Here’s what the tech giant has to say about the new experience:
“We’re evolving the way our hotel search works on smartphones to help users explore options and make decisions on their smallest screens. The new hotel search experience includes better price filtering, easier-to-find amenity information and the ability to book right from Google.”
As you can see, users are now able to search for hotels by price and location using a map to get a better idea of where they’re staying and how much hotels cost in specific areas. Users can put price filters on their searches and apply other conditions to help refine their options, much like we’re used to seeing on apps like Airbnb. Or users can stick to a list layout and scroll through hotel options with swipeable images and review scores.
Booking hotels through Google Flights
The next key change is happening in Google Flights, where there’s a new “Hotels” tab users can click to bring up the same hotel search experience we talked about in the previous section. Likewise, users searching for hotels first will be able to click a “Flights” tab to check out prices on plane tickets, too.
All of which creates a more refined booking experience for travellers, without needing to leave Google.
Travel planning from Google Search
Google is also adding a “Your Trips” tab to the new travel experience, where users can keep track of all their bookings. As soon as their booking is confirmed, it will show up in the “Your Trips” tab and also integrate with Google Now and the Google Calendar app, along with all the usual notifications telling them when to leave for the airport and travel recommendations.
Then we have the “Explore” tab, which has been part of the Google travel search experience for many years now. Users can click this tab to browse through landmarks and other points of interest in the locations they’re searching. And now Google is adding a “New Destinations” tab where they can explore other locations, weekend getaways and other trips they might be interested in.
So aside from making the booking process itself easier, Google is creating a more intuitive platform for travellers to plan their next trip.
What does this mean for travel marketers?
For travel marketers, the latest changes from Google give people more reason to plan and book the majority of their travels directly via Google Search. People can already do this using an app like Kayak but Google integrating flight and hotel booking with the wider search experience removes another vital step that makes it more convenient to turn to Google first.
Besides the actual booking process, the travel search and planning process on Google continues to become more intuitive and bookings are only ever a click or two away. And this new experience integrates seamlessly with Google Assistant which instantly makes it the most powerful voice-orientated travel booking experience available.
Of course, all of these changes help Google corner its already-sizable share of the travel booking industry but there’s always the risk of further antitrust rulings hurting the search giant. There’s already talk of another antitrust investigation in the EU over the way Google handles travel search and pressure is once again growing in the US.
For now, though, Google keeps rolling out new features that make it a formidable opponent for any brand or marketer who cares in the travel booking game.